An Ode to Winter Fog in San Francisco

March 20th is officially the last day of the astronomical winter for 2023. So let’s take some time to wax poetic about San Francisco’s omnipresent atmospheric anomaly. 

On what’s the last day of winter, there’s a sense of nostalgia that wraps around San Francisco’s fog this time of year. Sure, “Fogust” is a thing — something I’ve looked forward to since arriving in this city. Grays contrast verdant evergreens. Hugs red still; reflects soft moonlight; greets you with a familiar cool leaving your building. 

San Francisco’s winter fog is a constant that we can rely on. In a world rife with impermanence and volatility and unwanted happenstance, it’s a consoling presence. Something akin to a text from a childhood friend, whom you speak to a few times a year. A hug from a passed loved one held in a daydream. That inner wash of contentment waving at an acquaintance through a cafe window.

Karl the Fog is a multi-hyphenate — a muse, a protector, a well of memories. On good days, I climb the Filbert Steps and watch him roll over the Bay Bridge in oscillating waves of gratitude. On bad days, I do the same… though heeded with more self-actuation: I’m exactly where I need to be, I have stable living conditions, I have a fridge full of food, I have a phenomenal social circle; everything is enough.

The cold bite in early February that nips me in the ankles ascending those steps tickles my childhood. I spent my unmatured years in between Texas and New York, and each chapter of my upbringing was defined by an environmental extreme. Dallas has the searing summer heat that would brand seatbelt outlines on your bare chest. A life in Endwell inflicted the need to shovel feet of snow off steep driveways. San Francisco exists in a modest equilibrium between the two.

This, too, is what’s, historically speaking, the wettest span of the calendar year. Rainstorms surrender needed moisture on a city that’s left drought conditions for the first time in three years; droplets ping off weathered sidewalks and amass into streams, racing down Diamond Street. SF’s storm drains overwhelm with uncollected trash and organic debris — clogs that are now cleared by do-gooders who’ve adopted them amid instances of citywide flooding.

Temporal things are fickle by both nature and design. They populate our days as mirrors of our mortality. Nothing lasts forever; nothing is guaranteed. Everything is in a constant state of entropy; without decline, peaks can never be fully appreciated. The most beguiling parts of life all exist under these common denominators.

For us fortunate enough to call San Francisco home, our city’s corona of condensation come winter beacons us all to careen our necks upward. Away from our detritus, building space between us and existentialism. 

Feature Image: The south tower of the Golden Gate Bridge peeking out of the low fog at sunrise on Saturday, January 28th. Shot from Slacker Hill by Stu Berman (IG: stuinsf).

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